The next EU members and immigration

The debate of what approach the UK should adopt to the potential immigrants from the next two accession countries to the European Union, Romania and Bulgaria, has intensified. The Tories have called for curbs and Labour is promising “no open door” . The DUP’s Jim Allister is supporting limits but Dublin MEP Mary Lou McDonald has attacked him for suggesting restrictions. The latest Sunday Times poll indicates that the British public, in particular women, want stronger immigration restrictions put in place.The Government previously underestimated the numbers (and may still be doing so) that planned to move and stay in the UK from the previous accession countries and many, from across the political spectrum question whether such large numbers are sustainable. The benefits or otherwise of an open migration policy are the centre of much debate, although Tony Blair has rejected calls for a cost benefit analysis of mass immigration arguing the debate should focus on the appropriate level.

Furthermore considering the different regional performances within the UK can one immigration policy fit all? Southern England does have clear labour shortages while across the UK there can be particular skills shortages e.g. health sector. However, as Northern Ireland and other regions, still suffer from high levels of economic inactivity the same case of a labour shortage cannot be made, does it make sense to import labour to entry level jobs? Would a toughening up of the welfare system produce greater benefits than the importation of labour in some parts of the UK including here?

  • Bushmills

    Unlimited, unchecked immigration, placing strain on our already overburdened public services – a recipe for success Sinn Fein-style.

  • But at least with all this immigration you can now get cleaners who actually clean stuff, and plumbers who can turn up…

  • How does Tony propose to tell what is the appropriate level of immigration without some form of analysis of the costs and benefits?

    Maybe he’s going to base it on whether Islington “feels too Polish” or Bradford is “Romanian enough”?

  • Red Hand Luke

    hmmm, its not up to the likes of a ROI politician Mary Lou to debate whether or not N. Ireland should take in more immigrants.

    Secondly, if Northern England must take more immigrants, I recomment they’re all sent to Halifax, Yorkshire!! 😉

  • kensei

    “Unlimited, unchecked immigration, placing strain on our already overburdened public services – a recipe for success Sinn Fein-style.”

    Or, lots of people who have moved very far who just want to work and contribute to the system. You decide!

    I laughed at news last night about the UK governments estimates of about 20,000 people coming form the new state and how they had got it wrong as it was 600,000. Bollocks. They lied through their teeth because they wanted the workers (and the depressing effect on wages) but didn’t want the hysteria. Sadly they can’t do the same trick twice.

  • K Doherty

    The problem is not immigration as such, but the rate of immigration into certain cities such as Southampton. The net effect of mass migration is that the labour market there is now swamped, forcing down wages. It is difficult to argue the benefits of an open door policy to a local brickie who has seen his earnings drop by 30%. Things should settle when EU re-generation money filters through into the likes of Poland.

  • mnob

    NI has an unemployment rate of 4.6%. Belfast has a lower rate than that agin. These are people who dont have a job *and who want one*.

    Economically inactive people dont want or cant have a job. This wont be changed by how many jobs are available.

    The people who are putting strain on the system are not the working migrants who come here to satisfy a demand and who pay their taxes here despite being educated and reared elsehwere – but those who are inactive and shouldnt be.

  • lib2016

    K Doherty,

    So much for all those hardline Conservatives who claim to believe that market forces will solve every problem.

    In fact no method has proven effective in keeping out illegal immigrants so failure to allow legal immigration will only produce a larger ‘black’ economy and erode worker’s hardwon rights.

    What we need is more enforcement of the laws that already exist and an increase in social protection.

    Maybe ways could be found so that immigrants for whom things don’t work out could be helped to return. We could learn from the Dutch model where workers are actively encouraged to find seasonal work and keep their base in their home countries.

  • mnob

    lib, how is fleecing them for taxes when they are working and then kicking them off home when they become a problem be ‘an increase in social protection’ ?

  • lib2016


    You make good points. It’s wrong to deduct taxes which include a provision to pay for NIHE, social benefits etc. and then not refund it but use dodgy ‘residence requirements’ to deny people those benefits which they have already paid for.

    It’s similar to the unsatisfactory attitude the authorities have towards those people who take up temporary employment in an effort to get back into the workforce – I’m being penalised for that at the moment myself, so I’m all for protecting worker’s right!

    What I’m arguing for is a system which helps and supports people who take short-term and seasonal work including immigrants who take that sort of work.

  • Brian Boru

    If Britain is going to do this then the Irish govt should follow suit, or we’ll be utterly inundated like last time. Romania and Bulgaria have a combined population of 30 million (7.5 million for Bulgaria and 22.5 million for Romania). Sharing a common language means that those who cant go to Britain will go to Ireland and to some extent vice-versa. The common-travel area also makes a similar policy on this issue essential otherwise one country could be used to some extent as a back-door to the other.

    Over 2,000 Eastern Europeans are now on social-welfare in the Republic. Most stupidly the system whereby child-care allowance goes to parents for child-care costs in a flat lump sum is being claimed by Eastern Europeans for children living in Eastern Europe. This is crazy and is expected to cost us €100 million by the end of the year. Enda Kenny needs to rethink his policy of wanting to open our borders to these 2 countries when they join the EU. I was alarmed that in his interview some months ago with Ursulla Halligan he refused to qualify what he was saying in the light of British plans for restrictions or because we have already had 250,000 here since EU Enlargement. We are only a small country and our hospitals are already creaking at the seems with these new numbers. The extension to Wexford General Hospital is already full and its only just been built. Pat Rabbitte is the only one in the Irish Opposition brave enough to speak out on the need for controls unlike his PC-brigade backbenchers. The taboo on this issue has to stop now….

    Britain is right to consider this. I only wish our Southern politicians would wake up to public opinion as revealed in polls demanding the return of controls on the 10 new EU states and introduce controls on these 2 new EU states-in-waiting. Our govt looks like bringing in controls, but Enda wants to open the floodgates. He better change that view or lose my vote.

  • mnob

    Brian are these eastern european mothers working in the republic ?

  • Brian Boru

    Usually fathers mnob and usually they would be but even so, that child-care allowance which is a lump sum was intended to pay for the high costs of childcare in the Republic, not for childcare in Poland which could be expected to be vastly less expensive. Indeed it is more likely it will go on normal uses instead. They can have it on a per-child basis, even if they are not working. This is ludicrous considering the small size of the Irish tax-base compared to the vast millions in Eastern Europe.

  • lib2016

    If there’s work available in Ireland and nobody willing to do it and there are people elsewhere looking for work then it makes sense for them to come here and for us to welcome them.

    Abuse of the welfare system is a separate issue and should be tackled separately. In my experience it’s the indigenous population who are much more likely to be at it, but there’s no excuse wherever such abuse stems from.

    The major abusers of the system will continue to be the wealthy among us. In all too many cases that’s how they got rich in the first place. Does society really benefit from subsidising rich people in their ownership of multiple properties, racehorses and large stock accounts? All of which it does for some reason.

  • Crataegus

    If we are to have a free market in Europe then we must have a free movement of labour. These people are coming here to WORK. They pay tax and contribute to society and services. Our real problem is with places like China where pay can be as low as 4% of what it is here. When jobs go to China what benefit here other than cheap imports?

    Somehow we seem to think that it is OK for us to invest in Romania and Bulgaria, buy up their houses and force property prices up, but for some reason it is totally different if they decide to come here and invest their labour here. If they are enterprising and can find job here let them come. If they take jobs that locals won’t do then good luck to them. Generally they are the young and healthy and one has to ask what pressure on services does that age group cause? They are an asset.


    Abuse of the welfare system is a separate issue and should be tackled separately. In my experience it’s the indigenous population who are much more likely to be at it, but there’s no excuse wherever such abuse stems from.

    For once we agree!!

  • Rubicon

    NI’s economic inactivity rate describes a sick population either unable or unwilling to work and in need or preferring welfare handouts. One way of lowering this rate is by facilitating those who do wish to work to work here. Our Romanian and Bulgarian new neighbours can then bitch about the lazy assed free-loading on the system.

    Let them in – the sooner the better!

  • cladycowboy


    I’d like to consider myself a socialist so in theory support the free movement of people.

    I work in an Immigration firm in London. I’ve met a lot of fantastic people from various dangerous and poor parts of the world who have come here claiming political asylum and worked hard to turn rags into riches. There are also some who rent out council flats provided for them by the taxpayer.

    ‘Somehow we seem to think that it is OK for us to invest in Romania and Bulgaria, buy up their houses and force property prices up, but for some reason it is totally different if they decide to come here and invest their labour here’

    Thats just it. The people whop are irked by the amount of immigration are not those who can afford to invest in foreign property. Globalisation will benefit the rich everywhere and the poor everywhere outside the west. The poor within the west are the ones who will bear the burden, as they have always done.

  • Crataegus


    I agree with you, sure it is going to fall hardest on the poor in the west and those with wealth gain. That has always been the way of the world.

    What worries me more than immigrants is the sheer arrogance that we are somehow better, that we can somehow rely for future wealth on all those higher functions and value added goods. Once upon a time the Japanese could only make trinkets, and in our arrogance we lost the motorbike industry and then the car industry. Now of course we are so much better at Insurance or Banking or inventing and design.

    The point is I think we are moving into an era of adjustment, as our comparative wealth has less and less foundation in reality. We have lost our manufacturing base and are now losing service jobs, the brave new world that I see is one with an increasing gap between those with and those without and of a sharp relative decline in our Western economies. It is a World where the ‘without’ increasingly find employment in Services for the ‘with’. It is a future that I do not find attractive.

    We need to get real about how efficient our economy actually is and in my view immigrants are on the plus side of that equation.

    People talk a lot of cobblers about global free trade, China has grown not by open free trade but by rigging the exchange rate, ensuring mass cheap labour and massive government intervention in industry, vesting land and all the rest of it. Why set up a business in China? Simple cheap labour, quick turnaround, good profit. Why set up a business in London? Simple to feed of existing wealth and expertise. Where do the poor from Brick Lane enter into this equation? Probably making coffee and cleaning the office unless we radically improve our competitive position.

    I know some of you will say Ireland, Ireland, but same question, why invest in Ireland? Reason to avoid tax. Works for a small country, but if all Europe followed suit how long would the Celtic Tiger last?

    The world is one where the poor in the west have a bleak future. We need to look at what we can do competitively and reducing unnecessary imports such as oil.

    If you have money the sensible approach is to invest in rising economies.

    Sorry if a bit off subject.

  • Harry

    Official figures in the republic put immgration at around 450,000. The official figures are a gross undersestimate I would say and we are looking at a total of anywhere between 600,000 and 800,000.

    That’s around 20% of the population are immigrants in the space of a little over 7 years.

    When Bulgaria and Romania join there’ll likely be another 400,000 to 500,000 at least.

    That’s 25% to 35% of the population immigrants in around a decade.

    That’s excessive and bordering on the insane in anyones book.

    Yet silence from the neo-liberal extremists. Apart from depression of wages and increases in rental and mortgage costs, the cultural fabric of the country will be (already has been to an extent) ripped-up.

    Such a massive population movement relative to overall population size would normally be associated with a massive disaster but in Ireland we are told this is to be the new reality. It is extremism in the service of greed.

  • kensei

    Course, the absolute last people on the planet to have the right to complain about immigrationm are the Irish, Harry.

    I think we should some more compassiona nd understanding when it comes to people wanting to make a better life for themselves.

  • Harry

    I have compassion and understanding. I welcome immigration and what it has to give us as well as the immigrants who benefit from it.

    Increasing your population by 35% with foreigners in a decade is, however, insane.

  • Fraggle

    One good thing about the recent immigrants is that they haven’t tried to set up any enclaves in the country that are ruled by their home country. If only everyone could be so well behaved.

  • Annadale

    “If only everyone could be so well behaved”

    Perhaps…just maybe…finally.. the “native Irish”, after centuries of trying, have finally learnt to be bit more tolerant of “foreigners” and these new “foreigners” are responding by being a bit better “behaved” than the last batch of “foreigners”?

  • Harry

    Oh right, supremacism as a reaction, is it? Rubbish. Thuggery is what irish protestant ascendancy has been on this island. Nothing to do with the ‘behaviour’ of the natives and certainly not their fault.

  • Reader

    Fraggle: haven’t tried to set up any enclaves in the country that are ruled by their home country.
    What’s the ‘home country’ of people who have been here for 400 years, and in the UK for 200 years?

  • Annadale

    You’re not a great one for the irony are you??!
    The “”s should have given it away 😉

  • Donall

    The arguement that immigrants depress local wages is not backed up my statistics. Where decreases in local wages are found, these decreases are small (typ. <1%)
    The argument that they are coming in here taking our jobs is also misconcieved. Firstly, there is not a finite number of jobs available in the job market. And, immigrants are not competing for the same jobs as locals in all cases e.g. a plumber can't compete with a electrician for jobs.

    When we hear that the NI tourist board has people taking an average of 4 weeks off on the sick a year - isn't it time that we got some people in here to do the jobs we don't want to do - or that we can't do ourselves.

    The dependency culture in NI is a bad thing.
    These people are here to work and contribute to the economy (immigrants).
    The greatest revulsion will be from the poor, stupid and lazy in society. (Think of racist attacks on foreign nurses in the Village area)

  • Occasional Commentator

    Often (but maybe not always) those poor stupid and lazy people who don’t want businesses to employ cheap labour from abroad are just the same people who will enjoy the benefits of cheap imports from abroad themselves, whether it be food or DVDs or something. Hypocrites employing cheap labour from abroad to make their stuff.

    As Donall said, there isn’t a finite number of jobs in the economy. In the 70’s the population was lower (I presume?) but unemployment was higher. Attacking immigrants coming in taking jobs is just as absurd as attacking children for turning 18 and taking jobs. An increasing population creates more jobs as long as they are economically active in some way.

  • Harry

    If you think that making around 30% of the total population consist of immigrants in the space of a little over a decade is an unalloyed good thing then I suggest you take your heads out of your politically correct rear ends and look at reality a bit more closely. What you are advocating is extremism, with jst as equally poor economic arguments from your end to support your case as you accuse the anti-immigration crowd of suffering from. And then of course there are the social and political consequences over the medium term concerning which you have bugger all but wooly-mindedness to offer.

    Having seen the way some of these discussions operate on the internet I know that many of the anti-immigration crowd are shocking racists who most people wouldn’t want to be associated with in a month of sundays. There is however a middle-ground in all of this which neither you pc extremists nor the racist nutters are addressing.

    In Dublin there is huge employment by immigrants in shops, restaurants, pubs and all the rest of it. Immigrants also work in banks as tellers, in the construction industry, as architects, etc. Do you really expect people to believe that the effect on wages in these areas is less than 1%? Most of these have become minimum wage, the otehrs have become depressed in real terms over the last decade. For example I know a slovak architect who earns 550 euros a week.

    Immigration is a good thing. Dynamic, exciting and the women aren’t half bad looking either. But what we are seeing in ireland – which has the highest rate of immigration in the world at the moment i believe – is extremism. And the reason for this extremism has nothing to do with empathy for these people, no matter how often such platitudes are trotted out to bludgeon critics into silence. The reason is wages and house prices – the bosses and the gombeens are the driving force behind this.

    Ireland is having the social and economic philosophy of an immigrant country placed on it in all its extremism. Colonies such as the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand are the countries from which ireland is taking its cues – the post-colonial mindset is alive and well in the upper echelons of the exploitative extremists that rule this society. The difference however is that ireland, unlike those countries, is a nation not just a colony. It is the home of a long-settled people not just a colony of immigrants.

    The total silence over this whole issue and absence of serious discussion, coupled with the cries of derision towards those – even moderate – people who think something’s not right, shows the pushy extremism and bad faith of those pushing this agenda. We have the right to take action to maintain a lot of the nature of our way of life, not just tear everything up in the rush for maximum growth and profits. Clearly the warning signs are there. Moderation used to be considered a good thing, without question. In the current climate the moderates have to argue their case against the sneering rapaciousness of the extemists. Somethings not right.